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May 21 2014
This article was published on May 21 2014 and was archived on May 22 2015. The information below may be outdated or inaccurate.
Excellence is a commonality of many college graduates. But rarely are graduates' journeys to such merit alike. New River Community College's graduates are no exception. With more than 300 in the class of 2014, one can imagine the many paths taken to arrive at graduation day. Students Reuben Miller, Ameen Ahmed, Sherri Gallagher, Sungin Jo and Joshua Vaught are just five examples of the varying paths to excellence at NRCC.
During the recent President's Awards ceremony at New River Community College, one name seemed to be found in almost every category: Reuben Miller.
Miller was honored as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society's All-Virginia Academic Team, recognized as an Advanced Learners Program graduate and was the Outstanding Student in Education.
Stacking up honors like that might make one think that higher education was on Miller's mind from a very young age. However, he says it wasn't until his early twenties that he began considering a college education.
Miller grew up in a traditional Amish community in the White Gate area of Giles County. There, he describes a life that included using a horse and buggy for transportation and eschewing modern conveniences like electricity. But his love of education also began there, while he was acting as an assistant teacher in an Amish Parochial school and participating in homeschooling with his family. "I've always enjoyed teaching people," he says.
Though they still reside in Giles County, Miller and his family left the Amish community when he was a teenager. He describes his departure from the Amish culture as a "very radical change." "I had to learn a whole new way of dressing, acting and living," he says.
Along with the multitude of lifestyle changes Miller underwent when he left the Amish was the consideration of a college education. Before then, he says, "I never dreamed I would go to college." Even after beginning his studies at NRCC, he says he still wasn't sure how far he'd make it in his education. A bachelor's degree seemed like a dream, but as he prepares to graduate from NRCC and transfer to Radford University this fall, that dream seems like much more of a reality.
As he reflects on his time at NRCC, he notes that what really stood out to him during his studies was that "the people here are all very willing to help you succeed, especially the instructors." Asked if he had any advice for future students on how to succeed, he is quick and to the point: "be organized and be dedicated."
Those attributes will serve him well as he heads to RU in the fall in pursuit of his goal to become a middle school teacher. The reason behind his choice of profession is one his NRCC instructors would no doubt appreciate. "I want to teach because of the opportunity to influence lives," he says.
With a passion for math, computers and getting good grades, Ameen Ahmed is the kind of self-motivated student who's well-suited for higher education. But maintaining those top-notch grades comes with an extra challenge in his case. Ahmed, of Blacksburg, is visually impaired.
Ahmed has several adaptive strategies he uses to help him with his classwork including using an audio recorder and a laptop computer with a screen-reading program called JAWS. He also uses audio versions of most of his textbooks. With these tools and other assistance from NRCC's Center for Disability Services, he says that most classes are made accessible to him.
Even then, however, some classroom activities and homework assignments still present challenges, requiring him and his instructors and tutors to think outside the box. For example, his love of math can be a struggle when it comes to graphing equations. But he recounts some innovative solutions including one that his physics instructor, Dr. Caisy Ho, devised. Dr. Ho used a glue gun to create raised lines on graphs that Ahmed could feel. Another method of visualizing graph